Living Green: what the past can teach us about sustainability

Ksimpson.livestrong  By: Krystal Stokes, Communications & Public Relations Manager with Victoria Lifeline.

‘Living green’ is a trend that has dominated social discourse over the last decade, representing a growing movement to reduce the impact human behavior has on the environment. In essence, the movement acknowledges a way of life, one that prioritizes sustainability for a healthier planet to ensure there are enough resources available for future generations. By making simple adjustments to our daily routine, we can all live green and care for the world around us. And if you’re looking for a few tips on how to adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle – why not look back at the way we used to live.

It’s hard to turn on the television these days without hearing some advice on living green. The ubiquitous message is everywhere, and sometimes it’s hard to cut through all the noise to find some simple lifestyle changes that will contribute to a healthier plant and ultimately, a healthier you.  For my own personal inspiration, I read a great article from One Brown Planet: Tools for Sustainable Living on what we can learn from past generations on how to reduce and reuse, two important components of living green. 

The popular green slogan, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle can be traced back to the late 1970s when governments around the world started to adopt environmentally friendly policies aimed at conservation and garbage waste reduction. Since then, recycling has become second nature to many Canadians including myself, but it’s also important to reduce/reuse and cut back on plastic usage. In the Brown Planet article entitled, “Life Before Plastic,” the author talks to his own mother about what they used before plastic, which prompted me to reflect on my own childhood.

I was born in the late 1960s, and my mother worked part time and also cared for my sisters and me while running the household. This included making all of our clothes (sewing and knitting), mending them when needed, and handing them down to each sister. She also made all of our Barbie clothes and passed them onto to the neighborhood kids after we outgrew the dolls. We had a clothesline in the backyard and everything was dried on the line in summer. We had one family car, so my mom rode her bicycle everywhere in summer and took the bus in winter; she even took the bus grocery shopping with three kids in tow (I break into a cold sweat just thinking about trying that with my own kids). She also re-used everything, even bread bags, which she wrapped around our feet inside winter boots so our socks wouldn’t get wet from playing in the snow. I could go on and on, but this gives you a quick snapshot of how things were.

And while this was a different time and the world was a different place (on a side note I did not inherit her knitting prowess) there are some simple things we can learn from the past on how to live green.


  • Cut out the plastic bags (including sandwich bags) and go liter-less wherever possible! My mother used to wrap our food in cloth and she also had a cart on two wheels to pack her groceries in, which we would help load onto the bus. Today, reusable shopping bags, coffee mugs and water bottles are readily available and they even have reusable sandwich bags with washable liners. Check out the Generation Green store on the corner of Main and Bannatyne in Winnipeg (or visit them online) for more innovative reusable products or if you’re handy with a needle and thread, why not make your own bags! You can also check out a few thrift stores around town for some amazing second hand clothing steals - I picked up a beautiful camel coloured trench coat for the spring season.


  • Buy locally grown fruits & vegetables or plant your own outdoor/indoor garden (think fresh herbs year round). Not only will this contribute to a healthier planet, eating fresh food right from the vine is actually better for you! And why not try preserving food for the winter months – if you’ve ever made homemade jam or jelly, you know it’s worth its weight in gold! Food scraps can also be used to make soup stocks.
  • Be mindful of electrical, gas and water consumption to reduce the strain on renewable resources. My father used to walk around the house turning off all the lights we left on as teenagers and now I’m doing that to my own kids! According to the Canadian Consumer Handbook, you can save 2% on you energy bill for every 1 degree you lower your thermostat overnight. Their website offers some great tips on how to live green in today’s world; tips that can also save you money in the long run! 


  • Pass down your knowledge to future generations – if you have practical skills like making your own soap or candles, canning preservatives or even building a birdhouse for the backyard, teach the next generation so they too can reduce their reliance on consumable goods.

As we look forward to a warm Manitoba summer and time spent outdoors, take a moment to reflect on the beauty of nature and the benefits of living green. If you have any great sustainable tips to share, I’d love to hear them. Please email me your great ideas!

Learning to live healthy has never been so easy!
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